The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on August 29, 2012 that archaeologists have unearthed two stone figurines believed to be 9,500 years old.
In an excavation along the route of a proposed expansion of Israel's Highway 1 - the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem thoroughfare - archaeologists uncovered the figurines of a ram and a wild pig or buffalo at Tel Moza. The ram, made from limestone, has intricately carved horns and is about 15 centimeters. The second figurine is more abstract and depicts a large animal with prominent horns that could be a bovine or buffalo.
“The sculpting is extraordinary and precisely depicts details of the animal’s image; the head and the horns protrude in front of the body and their proportions are extremely accurate,” said Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, one of the co-directors of the dig from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Dr. Khalaidy said the object most likely dates from the period when early humans began the transition from nomadic hunting and gathering to sedentary life based on farming and grazing with permanent settlements. “The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (the eighth millennium BCE) is considered one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of mankind; many changes took place in it that shaped human society for thousands of years to come,” he said in a statement released by the IAA.
Anna Eirikh, the other co-director of the dig, believes that the figurines are linked to the process of animal domestication, as the inhabitants began to build complex societies and agricultural villages. But Khalaily believes the figurines were used as talismans. “Presumably, the figurines served as good-luck statues for ensuring the success of the hunt and might have been the focus of a traditional ceremony the hunters performed before going out into the field to pursue their prey,” he said.
A statement released by the IAA said the figurines could have been either good luck hunting icons or a representation of the animal’s domestication.
Sources: Melanie Lidman, "Archaeologists Find 9,500 Year Old Figures Near Jerusalem," Jerusalem Post, (August 29, 2012).
Alisa Odenheimer, "Stone Age Animal Figurines Unearthed Outside Jerusalem," Bloomberg Businessweek, (August 29, 2012).
Associated Press, "Israeli Archaeologists Find 9,500-year-old Figurines That Shed Light on Stone Age," Washington Post, (August 29, 2012).
Photo Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority